The Letter to the Hebrews begins this way: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
One of those “many ways” in which God spoke to our fathers was through “visions.” People would dream dreams or see visions in which God was telling them something specific. God declared in Hosea 12:10, “I spoke to the prophets; it was I who multiplied visions.” Ezekiel often saw visions of God, as did Daniel, Amos, and other prophets. One of the more well-known visions of our fathers was seen by Jacob in today’s Scripture passage.
Please read Genesis 46:1-4.
The problem with visions, as attested by the prophet Jeremiah, is that some people see “visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16), and many “prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions” (Lamentations 2:14).
In this passage, God spoke to Jacob through “visions of the night,” which implies that Jacob was drifting in and out of sleep when he had these revelations from the Lord. When Jacob arrived in Egypt and started to be afraid or nervous, he could lean back on God’s assurance, but that assurance only came through these dreamy visions.
Can you imagine moving to a foreign land, unsure of what you should do or what will happen to you, and the only confidence you have that God is with you is from a restless night’s sleep in which you saw a few visions?
But that’s one of the most common ways that God revealed Himself in the Old Testament. He also spoke directly to prophets, used signs in the heavens, manipulated the outcome of casting lots, the Ummim and Thummim, spoke from heaven, spoke from a burning bush, manipulated the outcome of battles, illnesses, and the weather, and much more. Truly God spoke to the Old Testament saints in “many ways.” But all of those ways would leave us today with a measure of uncertainty. We would ask ourselves: did I really dream that I saw God or was that just bad hummus? Am I correctly interpreting the signs of the heavens or the times, or am I way off? Did God manipulate the casting of lots, rolling of dice, or reading of stones, or was that just chance? What happens if I role the dice again?
If God still spoke in this myriad of ways, I think it would leave us with a lot of uncertainty. But He doesn’t. “In these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” Jesus is the perfect revelation of God in the flesh. And Jesus’ disciples, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have written down the words and actions of this Perfect Revelation.
Today we have the completed Words of Scripture, which reveal to us God’s perfect will for our lives. As Christians, we don’t have to wonder if the vision we saw was real—we can look to the Word; we don’t have to roll dice to discern God’s will—we can look to the Word; we don’t have to analyze the movement of hurricanes, constellations, or national armies—we can look to the Word.
God has given us the perfect means to determine His will for our lives. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness in His Holy Word. We can know exactly what God’s will is for our lives, and we can be assured that He will always be with us, because we have His Word.